Best "Secret" Places to Visit in Washington, D.C.

Best “Secret” Places to Visit in Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital has list upon list of things you simply must see or do when you visit. And for someone who grew up in Virginia, I’ve seen quite a few of them. But as anyone who frequents Washington, D.C. will tell you, there’s always something new and different to see.


On your next trip, skip the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian and try some of the hidden gems, or secret places and view the city in a slightly different way.


Rock Creek Park Horse Center

Rock Creek Park is well-known by most, even if it’s just from the news or TV shows based in D.C. But did you know there are stables deep in the woods and that you can take riding lessons there? There are also guided trail rides, pony rides through the park, and a summer camp. Definitely check this hidden gem out!


Olmstead’s Summer House Capitol Grotto

The Summerhouse designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – who helped improve the Capitol Grounds and the Capitol Building – built this Summerhouse as a place for people to rest on their journey to the capital. It was also originally designed to be a decorative showcase for landscaping. Built in the form of an open hexagon, it’s geometric and artistic and absolutely worth a visit.


Lincoln's Cottage

You’ve probably seen the Lincoln Memorial, but take some time to visit President Lincoln’s Cottage in the Petworth neighborhood in Northwest. Recently restored and reopened in 2008, it shows where President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. Guided tours, exhibits, and other programs are also available.


Dumbarton Oaks

The garden at Dumbarton Oaks are the real draw, but the museum offers some great collections of Pre-Columbian and Byzantine art. Outside you’ll see a beautiful garden designed by Mildred Bliss and landscape designer Beatrix Farrand. It’s a great place to take a stroll and you may even forget the city is right outside the garden.


The Technicolor Church

If you have a chance to swing by the far end of Delaware Ave in SW, check out the abandoned Friendship Baptist Church. Alex Brewer took the white building and made it into an artistic masterpiece. The Technicolor Church has free admission for a colorful gallery inside as well.


The Exorcist Steps

Fans of the 1973 horror The Exorcist will want to make a quick detour to this set of stairs which serves as a shortcut between Prospect Street and Canal Road. The stairs are still pretty creepy, covered with ivy and narrow, and wedged between a brick warehouse and a stone wall. But they can be fun to climb up – during the day.


Did we miss your favorite “non-touristy tourist” attraction? Let us know what else we should visit on our next trip to Washington, D.C. 


Rebecca Alwine is an army wife, mother of three, and lover of her adorable pirate dog. Over the past 12 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, lifting weights, and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her days consist of CrossFit workouts, listening to audiobooks, and pretending to cook while her Instant Pot does all the work. Her motto: work smarter, not harder.


  • 1/14/23
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